In 1998, James L. Lacy selected one designed for the Save the Children organization and used the ties to recognize gifts to The Rotary Foundation. The first presidential scarf also appeared that year. In 2006-07, William B. Boyd wanted his tie to echo the blue and green hues of the paua shell, which is found in his native New Zealand.

As the tradition has evolved, presidential ties and scarves have been presented as gifts by the incoming RI president to district governors, directors, trustees, and others at the International Assembly. Most presidents also give them to dignitaries outside the organization. The remaining limited-edition ties and scarves are distributed upon request to Rotarians who make US$125 contributions to the Foundation (until supplies run out).

The design is usually related to the theme the president chooses, and the president's spouse is often involved in the final selection of the tie and the scarf. John Kenny's tie is embossed with a pattern of splayed hands in keeping with the theme The Future of Rotary Is in Your Hands. The tie that landed with Ray Klinginsmith's presidency connects with the theme for his term, Building Communities – Bridging Continents.

Designing the presidential tie "is the most fun thing that we do," says Jane DeMoss, manager of the Design Department at RI headquarters in Evanston, Ill., USA. The process, from initial concept to final production, typically takes about six months.

The eight designers on staff each provide several ideas based on the incoming president's chosen theme and jacket as well as personality and culture. The tie manufacturer adapts the designs and presents samples to the president-elect to choose from. Although it may not be a heated competition, there is, of necessity, a neck-and-neck battle.